Rates of marijuana, prescription opioid use higher among patients with cancer

Photo Credit: Health Mil

Photo Credit: Health Mil

A new study published in the journal Cancer has found rates of marijuana use have increased significantly among cancer patients, likely as a result of expanding cannabis access. The study looked at data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to study self-reported marijuana and prescription use trends between 2005 and 2014 among cancer patients and those without cancer, who were the controls. The survey involved 19,604 respondents between 20-60 years old. The 826 patients with cancer averaged 47.4 years old and were 66.7% women, and the 1,652 patients noncancer controls with similar propensity scores averaged 46.7 years old and 66% were women. Compared to controls, more patients with cancer reported using marijuana in the past year (40.3% in cancer patients vs 38% in controls) and current marijuana use (8.7% in cancer patients vs 6.6% in controls). Between the 2005 and 20014, marijuana use among cancer patients increased 118%, while there was only a 12.5% increase among the controls. It’s important to note that while opioid use increased among both cancer patients and controls, researchers calculated opioid use based on prescription access and did not account for potential abuse.

Those with cancer were also more likely to use prescription opioids than those without. Chief of the central nervous system tumor and liver tumor services at UC San Diego Health Jona Hattangadi-Gluth explains, “Medical marijuana legalization has previously been associated with a reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse, suggesting that if patients are, in fact, substituting marijuana for opioids, this may introduce an opportunity for reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality… Of course, it will also be important to identify risks and adverse effects of marijuana, which has not previously been studied in large randomized clinical trials, given it’s scheduling as a class 1 controlled substance.” He continues, “These data provide the first insight into marijuana and opioid use over time in people with cancer across the United States… Prospective clinical trials are needed to quantify the efficacy of marijuana in cancer-specific pain as well as the risk [for] opioid misuse in this patient population.”

This information has been provided by Healio and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Discussing the Health Benefits of Marijuana - Part 2.

Photo Credit: Max Pixel (https://bit.ly/2StCkIo)

Photo Credit: Max Pixel (https://bit.ly/2StCkIo)

In our last post, we began our discussion of the different health benefits of medical marijuana, but let’s continue and discover more ways the plant can enhance one’s life.

Although medical marijuana has garnered the reputation as a gateway drug by prohibitionists and anti-marijuana activists, studies have shown marijuana can actually help ween people off of those harmful and addictive substances. One study from 2009 found people used marijuana as a replacement for alcohol, prescription, and illegal drugs, mostly due to the fact that marijuana effectively manages health issues while producing few adverse side effects, and leaving little risk for withdrawal symptoms. This is an especially important benefit in light of the opioid epidemic currently ravaging the country. Not only is marijuana a healthy alternative to harmful substances like cigarettes, but it may even benefit the lungs and improve lung capacity. One study from the Journal of the American Medical Association involving 5000 participants over the course of 20 years linked marijuana users with a higher overall lung capacity than non-users. Additionally, marijuana’s ability to act as a bronchodilator makes it a powerful tool for asthma sufferers.

Medical marijuana also acts as a sleep aid for those who suffer with insomnia or other sleep disorders. Studies have found THC reduces the time it needed to fall asleep in healthy volunteers and insomniacs, so consuming marijuana prior to sleeping can help induce sleep. That said, some studies suggest cannabis can interfere with the deeper stages of sleep where dreaming occurs, known as REM sleep. Another use for medical marijuana is in enhancing sexual health. One study from 2017 found small doses of marijuana increases sexual drive and libido, and consumers report it increases orgasms and sexual enjoyment. That said, consumers shouldn’t go overboard: some studies have linked heavy long-term use to negative side effects like lack of sexual interest, erectile dysfunction, and reduced testosterone levels.

Stay tuned for the third and final installment of our discussion on the overall health benefits of medical marijuana. This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Medical Marijuana Patients Reduce Their Prescription Drug Use, Study Finds

Photo Credit: the Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: the Daily Chronic

A new study conducted by researchers from DePaul University and Rush University, College of Nursing and published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Care has determined patients registered in state medical marijuana programs tend to reduce their use of prescription medications. In the study, which involved 34 registered medical marijuana patients in Illinois, respondents claimed the onset of medical cannabis relief was quicker than other medications, and they found it had fewer side effects. Most patients used medical cannabis as a replacement for opioids, anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatories, and over-the-counter analgesics. The authors explained, “[O]ur results indicate that MC (medical cannabis) may be used intentionally to taper off prescription medications. These findings align with previous research that has reported substitution or alternative use of cannabis for prescription pain medications due to concerns regarding addiction and better side-effect and symptom management, as well as complementary use to help manage side-effects of prescription medication.”

This data supports previous studies with similar findings. This information has been provided by the Daily Chronic and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Study: Medical Cannabis Registrants Reduce Their Prescription Drug Use

Photo Credit: NORML

Photo Credit: NORML

Investigators from the University of New Mexico have recently published data suggesting chronic pain patients enrolled in a medical marijuana program are better able to reduce their use of prescription drugs than those who abstain from cannabis use. The study, which was published in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, analyzed the drug use patterns of 83 pain patients enrolled in a medical cannabis program and 42 patients who were not enrolled over the course of 24 months. Of those enrolled in the statewide medical marijuana program, 34% eliminated their prescription use by the end of the study, and 36% reduced their use of other medications. On average, registered medical marijuana patients significantly reduced their prescription medication intake, while non-registrants did not.

Authors concluded, “Legal access to cannabis may reduce the use of multiple classes of dangerous prescription medications in certain patient populations… [A] shift from prescriptions for other scheduled drugs to cannabis may result in less frequent interactions with our conventional healthcare system and potentially improved patient health.” This study supports similar findings from previous studies.

This study has been brought to you by NORML and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. You can also find the abstract here.

Reasons Patients Might Prefer Medical Marijuana to Prescription Drugs

Photo Credit: High Times

Photo Credit: High Times

At a time when Americans are seemingly overprescribed medications, many are beginning to look for alternative treatment methods that are as effective as their prescription medications, but that may contain higher safety profiles and produce fewer side effects. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found 119 million Americans (or 45% of the population) over the age of 12 were prescribed medications. Of that, 19 million (or 7.1% of the population) abused their medications. These statistics show that finding alternative treatment options is necessary, and many patients are starting to turn to natural alternatives like medical marijuana, which is known to produce few adverse side effects and can provide relief for a myriad of symptoms.

One of the reasons patients may prefer medical marijuana is that it is as effective, if not more effective, than prescription medications at relieving certain symptoms. Countless studies have found patients attest to cannabis as being as effective or more effective at relieving chronic pain or reducing the severity and frequency of epileptic seizures, which allows them to reduce or eliminate their use of pharmaceutical medications. That said, sometimes medical marijuana cannot provide full symptom relief on its own. In some situations, marijuana can be used in conjunction with other more traditional treatment regimens, like prescription medications or chemotherapy, to enhance the effects of these therapies. Additionally, patients can use medical marijuana without the fear of risking overdose or without the fear of becoming addicted (although some suggest marijuana is habit forming and may stimulate a sort of psychological dependence). Some pharmaceutical medications may provide desirable symptom relief while at the same time producing other unwanted side effects, but with medical marijuana, this is not the case. With medical marijuana, side effects are not severe and are minimal.

This information has been provided by High Times and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Research Says Cannabis Helps Fight Addiction

Photo Credit: MassRoots

Photo Credit: MassRoots

Research is mounting suggesting cannabis can help fight addiction. One study published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) found states with legalized medical cannabis experienced 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rates than states where medical marijuana was illegal. Another study found states saw a sharp decrease in patients admitted for opioid abuse after legalizing medical marijuana. Patients also spent less on prescription drugs for depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders, as a result of cannabis use. Researchers from the University of Montreal and the University of British Columbia found patients used cannabis to cope with crack cocaine addiction, and concluded, “Given the substantial global burden of morbidity and mortality attributable to crack cocaine use disorders alongside a lack of effective pharmacotherapies, we echo a call for rigorous experimental research on cannabinoids as a potential treatment for crack cocaine use disorders.”

Cannabis users and former heroin addicts are also more likely to complete their addiction treatment program than non-cannabis users. Lastly, cannabis can also combat addiction to legal substances like cigarettes and alcohol. One clinical trial found CBD helped patients reduce their cigarette use by 40% in comparison with patients who received placebo. Another study found 40% of medical marijuana patients were able to reduce their alcohol consumption. Authors call for a desire for more research, but say, “cannabis does appear to be a potential substitute for alcohol.” Additionally, cannabis may ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

This information has been provided by MassRoots and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Study Finds People are Using Cannabis in Place of Prescription Drugs

Photo Credit: Medical Marijuana Inc.

Photo Credit: Medical Marijuana Inc.

A survey conducted by researchers from Bastyr University Research Institute and published in the Journal of Pain Research found individuals use cannabis instead of prescription medication, whether or not they are registered medical marijuana patients. Of the self-selected national sample of 2,774 self-identified marijuana user respondents, 46% used cannabis instead of prescriptions. Marijuana was most commonly used instead of pain-relieving narcotics and opioids (36%), anti-anxiety medication like anxiolytics and benzodiazepenes (14%), and antidepressants (13%). The implementation of medical marijuana roles played little role in whether or not respondents made this substitution. Researchers determined, "Despite the illegality of cannabis in many states and the lack of professional guidance on dosing, routes of delivery and inadequate standardization or quality control for medical use, individuals are taking it upon themselves to augment, or discontinue, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs in favor of a largely unregulated herbal one."

This information supports previous findings, and researchers say, “These data contribute to a growing body of literature suggesting cannabis, legal or otherwise, is being used as a substitute for prescription rugs, particularly pain relievers." This information can be found on Medical Marijuana Inc., and it has been approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Study: Cannabis Often Substituted For Prescription Medications

Photo Credit: NORML

Photo Credit: NORML

New data published in the Journal of Pain Research has found adults have been substituting cannabis for their prescription medications. Researchers from Bastyr University Research looked at the frequency of drug substitution from a national sample of 2,774 self-identified marijuana consumers, and found 46% of respondents used cannabis as a substitute of prescription medications. They were most likely to use cannabis instead of opioids/narcotics (36%), followed by anxiolytics/benzodiazepenes (14%), and then antidepressants (13%). The substitution was more prominent among women and older respondents. Additionally, medical marijuana patients were four times more likely than non-medical cannabis users to make this substitution. Authors concluded this study contributes "to a growing body of literature suggesting cannabis, legal or otherwise, is being used as a substitute for prescription drugs, particularly prescription pain relievers."

This information has been provided by NORML and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. Click here to read the full study. 

Marijuana Allows 45% of Pain and Anxiety Patients to Eliminate Use of Prescription Pill, Study Finds

Photo Credit: Medical Marijuana Inc. 

Photo Credit: Medical Marijuana Inc. 

A new observational study involving 146 patients and conducted by Canada's Canabo Medical Inc. has found medical cannabis causes a drop in reliance on benzodiazepine for anxiety and pain patients. In the study, 40% of patients who used medical cannabis for pain and/or anxiety eliminated the use of benzodiazepines within 90 days, and after a years time the number increased to 45%. The majority of patients, at 61.3%, were using benzodiazepines to treat pain conditions. Another 27.4% used the prescription to treat anxiety, and 11.3% used the medications to treat neurological conditions.

Lead researcher Dr. Neil Smith explains, “We wanted to take a close look at the likelihood of continued benzodiazepine usage after commencing medical cannabis treatments and, to be perfect honest, the results are extremely promising... When conducting this type of research, experts are typically encouraged by an efficacy rate in the neighborhood of 10 percent. To see 45 percent effectiveness demonstrates that the medical cannabis industry is at a real watershed moment.” This study is significant in that cannabis, which has a high safety profile and lacks risk of addiction, may be able to stand in for benzodiazepines, which produce dizziness, headaches, memory impairment, and have the potential for abuse. In 2013, 30% of prescription pill overdoses were related to benzodiazepines. Cannabis can be a safe and effective alternative treatment for pain and anxiety. 

This information has been provided by Medical Marijuana Inc. and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Study: Canadian Patients Substituting Marijuana for Prescription Drugs

Photo Credit: Marijuana Industry News

Photo Credit: Marijuana Industry News

A recent study from the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria which was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy revealed patients in Canada suffering mental health conditions and pain substitute marijuana for opioids, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants. Researchers surveyed 271 patients registered with the cannabis producer Tilray and found 63% of respondents substituted marijuana for their prescription medication to treat pain-related conditions, including chronic pain and arthritis, mental health conditions, eating disorders, PTSD, and psychiatric disorder. The survey consisted of 107 questions that took into account demographics, use patterns, and marijuana as a substitution for medications. Authors noted that in the midst of the opioid epidemic, "cannabis could play a significant role in reducing the health burden of problematic prescription drug use.”

This information has been provided by Marijuana Industry News and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.  

Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Need for Other Meds?

Photo Credit: Verloren Hoop/Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Verloren Hoop/Wikipedia

According to a new study, states that have legalized medical marijuana witness a significant decline in prescriptions for illnesses that could be treated with cannabis, while at the same time, prescriptions for drugs that treat conditions for which marijuana wouldn't be successful have remained the same. Most commonly, medical marijuana is used to treat pain, thereby reducing the the average daily doses of prescription painkillers, which could play a helpful role in reducing the amount of fatal overdoses caused by opiates.

In a study, researchers looked at data from Medicare Part D between the years of 2010 and 2013, and they compared states that had legalized medical marijuana to those that had not. Investigators found medical marijuana had the greatest effect on prescription painkillers, with 1,826 fewer daily doses of painkillers prescribed on average per year in medical marijuana states than in outlaw states. Other conditions like anxiety, depression, nausea, psychosis, seizures, and sleep disorders saw smaller averages of 265 to 562 daily doses annually. This has led many to wonder whether medical marijuana could reduce the need for other medications. Dr. David Katz from the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven Connecticut says this data suggests marijuana could serve as a valuable alternative to FDA-approved drugs that come with worse side effects. 

This information has been brought to you by Web MD and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

After Medical Marijuana Legalized, Medicare Prescriptions Drop For Many Drugs

Photo Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

New research appearing in Health Affairs found in states where medical marijuana is legal, the numbers of Medicare prescriptions and the spending by Medicare Part D that cover the costs of those prescriptions have declined when medical marijuana is offered as a viable alternative for the same symptoms or conditions. For medicines like blood-thinners, in which medical marijuana is not a viable alternative, prescription numbers have not changed, which strengthens the point that medical marijuana legalization is responsible for this decline. This suggests that many patients not only find medical marijuana effective in treating their symptoms, but that they also prefer it to their prescription medications. 

The study analyzed data from Medicare Part D from 2010-2013 to determine whether legalization of marijuana changed doctors' clinical practice or curbed public health costs. Researchers found medical marijuana saved Medicare about $165 million in 2013, and they estimated Medicare Part D spending would have declined by $470 million that same year if medical marijuana had been legal across the nation. That being said, those savings only amount to about half a percent of total expenditures, suggesting monetary savings are not reason enough to legalize medical marijuana. Still, the study reveals that patients are opting to use medical marijuana as a medication for anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity. Authors of the study are additionally investigating medical marijuana's effects on prescriptions covered by Medicaid, and while the research is still being finalized, they have found a greater drop in prescription medication payments there.

This information has been adapted from NPR and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Study: Patients Report Substituting Cannabis for Booze, Prescription Drugs

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

A new study undertaken at the University of Victoria in British Columbia confirms what many patients have been saying all along: medical cannabis is preferable to prescription medications. The study, which was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, surveyed 473 Canadian adults with legal access to medical cannabis and assessed the influence medical marijuana had on their other drug-taking behaviors.

The report stated, "Substituting cannabis for one or more of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs was reported by 87 percent of respondents, with 80.3 percent reporting substitution for prescription drugs, 51.7 percent for alcohol, and 32.6 percent for illicit substances." Respondents between the ages of 18-40 displayed the highest rate of substitution, and patients who suffered from pain were most likely to use cannabis over prescription medications.

This study supports the evidence found in other studies conducted in the United States regarding the substitution of cannabis for opioids. Visit The Daily Chronic to read its analysis of this study, or read the abstract from the study, “Substituting cannabis for prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances among medical cannabis patients: The impact of contextual factors,” here.

Study: Patients Replace Prescription Drugs With Cannabis

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Medical marijuana advocates claim cannabis is preferable in comparison with pharmaceutical drugs, and now the Daily Chronic discusses a new study that backs these statements and shows patients with access to medical cannabis really are choosing the plant over their prescription medications. 

In a demographic review of patient characteristics published online in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, investigators from the Medical Marijuana Research Institute in Mesa examined 367 medical marijuana cardholders in the state. The patients reported using cannabis for treating a variety of different symptoms, but they all typically said "cannabis provided 'a lot of relief' or 'almost complete relief' of their symptoms and that its efficacy was greater than that of more conventional medications."

Not only was cannabis able to provide greater efficacy in combatting their symptoms, but it also allowed them to reduce their use of pharmaceutical prescriptions. "Over 90 percent of those who reported consuming cannabis to mitigate symptoms of nausea, headache, muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, bowel distress, and chronic pain acknowledged using pharmaceuticals less frequently once they had initiated cannabis therapy." Two previous studies back similar claims. 

Substituting cannabis for certain pharmaceutical medications is beneficial for a variety of reasons; it is impossible to overdose on cannabis, cannabis is merely habit forming but not addictive, and cannabis does not offer as many severe and unwanted side effects as some prescription medications. 

Go to the Daily Chronic to read the full details of this study.

PTSD and Medical Marijuana

Evidence continues to mount in support of cannabis as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can result from any traumatic event in a person's life, and can consist of a variety of psychological symptoms. Currently, most states only allow for pharmaceutical treatments for PTSD, but prescriptions are considered inadequate, and patients and doctors alike say cannabis is a better therapy for treating PTSD. Doctors point to something called "memory extinction" as the source of relief for PTSD sufferers. "Dr. Raphael Mechoulamis, the Israeli neuroscientist who discovered THC in 1964 and, later, the endocannabinoid system, has discovered that the cannabinoid system is integrally related to memory - and specifically something called 'memory extinction.' Memory extinction is the normal process of removing conditional associations from events or stimuli." Studies exist on the relationship between PTSD and cannabis in animals, but much more research is needed to examine the effect of cannabis on humans with PTSD. For a more in depth look at medical marijuana for PTSD, check out this article by Whaxy: http://bit.ly/1gdcEIz

Most Medical Marijuana Patients Substitute Cannabis for Prescription Drugs

Medical Marijuana has long been suggested as a natural way to treat a variety of symptoms for certain diseases, but how effective is it in comparison to pharmaceutical drugs?

According to a review published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs: Very.

Of 200 dispensary patients surveyed in Rhode Island, most of whom were treating chronic pain, over 90% reported substituting cannabis for their prescription medications as an effective way to reduce their pain. The survey results suggested medicinal cannabis improves pain symptomology and many patients consider it an effective alternative to opioid-based treatments.

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